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Bruno Lafont, the former head of Lafarge, was placed under formal investigation by French prosecutors over allegations the company helped finance terrorism in Syria*.

Mr Lafont, who was CEO of Lafarge until 2015, is being investigated in relation to possible terrorism financing, endangering the lives of others and customs offences on Friday evening in Paris, according to a judicial source.

His successor at the head of the company, Eric Olsen, was placed under formal investigation on Thursday night.

The investigation is part of a scandal that already led to the exit of Mr Olsen as chief executive of LafargeHolcim earlier this year. It surrounds a Lafarge plant the company kept running as Syria descended into civil war during 2013 and 2014.

LafargeHolcim, which was formed by a €41bn merger between France’s Lafarge and Switzerland’s Holcim in 2015, has previously admitted that “unacceptable measures” had been taken to keep the Syrian plant running, including payments to intermediaries to avoid disruption by local armed groups.

The company has said “selected members of group management” were aware of possible violations of business conduct standards. However, despite an internal investigation, the company has not been able to say if funds ultimately ended up with militant group Isis.

Mr Olsen, who was appointed CEO of LafargeHolcim in 2015, stepped down in July of this year in an attempt to try to draw a line under the controversy.

His departure followed an internal investigation into the matter even though the group concluded that “Eric Olsen was not responsible for, nor thought to be aware of, any wrongdoings”.

According to one company source, there is no indication the reported allegations are likely to have a material adverse financial impact on the group.

A third former executive who supervised Syrian operations in the period under investigations was also charged on Friday. Another three executives were charged the week before.

None of the former LafargeHolcim employees or Mr Lafont’s lawyer could be immediately reached for comment.

Mr Olsen’s lawyer, Pierre Cornut-Gentille, said his client would be appealing the decision and that “he wants only that light is shed on the case as soon as possible.”

LafargeHolcim has said it will not comment on an ongoing legal case.

The placing of suspects under formal investigation means that prosecutors believe they have “serious or consistent evidence” that could result in prosecution, according to French law. The investigation can still be dropped.

Note: This piece was amended to reflect that Bruno Lafont is the former CEO of Lafarge.

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